I am having a hard time making heads or tails of the story of the destruction of Sodom and the vicinity. All questions below are questions about the narrative of the story based on the interpretation of Chazal and Rashi.

Why is Ammorah (Gomorrah) punished if all the evil seems to only be occurring in Sodom? For example, chazal see the "cry of Sodom and Ammorah" (Bereshis 18:20) as referring to torture performed in Sodom only (see Sanhedrin 109a-b). I am not aware of any source that shows any evil doings in Ammorah at all.

It seem that in fact there were were 5 cities scheduled to be destroyed (hence Avraham's initial request of 50 righteous people - see Rashi to Bereshis 18:24). However, similar to the previous question, if there is only an outcry from 2 (really 1) why are these other cities being destroyed?

Was the city of Tzoar in fact saved because of Lot (19:21, Rashi)? If this is the case then why was Lot removed from Sodom by the angel in the first place? Meaning, if Lot (and his daughters) have enough merit to save a city, why do they only have enough to save Tzoar, and not Sodom?

If Tzoar is saved, why does Lot leave? It says he was afraid (19:30) but gives no indication as to why.

Why didn't the Angel just take Lot out of the entire vicinity instead of only out of Sodom (19:16)?


2 Answers 2


About Tzoar (will try to add more if time allows). I believe the traditional approach is that its execution was temporarily suspended to give Lot a short-term refuge, and after he leaves to the mountains shortly, that city is also destroyed.

In a beautiful exposition, the Akeydas Yitzchak notes a verse in Devarim (29:22) that Moshe lists 4 out of 5 cities in the valley that were destroyed, but Tzoar is not among them. Based on that, he claims that not only Lot and his daughters, but other righteous individuals in the valley all totalling 10, were gatherd in Tzoar to save it permanenmtly in Avraham's merit, as his last request entailed the city be saved on the account of 10 righteous individuals therein, and Hashem granted it.

This is why Lot couldn't stay in Sodom.

EDIT 1 I think Sodom and Amora were the largest cities in the valley, (and Sodom was greater). That's why the verses generally refer to Sodom and Amora but not to the other cities. They were just as bad, except Tzoar (see Lots' remark on 19:20 and Rashi therein).

  • this answer would be improved if you could cite a source which explains that all cities are implied when the pasuk says either "Sodom" or "Ammorah". Furthermore, the Akeydas Yitzchak sounds a bit too convenient. How does he know there were 8 other righteous people there? Sounds like backward engineering to me.
    – user2110
    Apr 17, 2013 at 18:42
  • @nikmasi I don't have such a source (hence "I think" before the relevant statement).
    – gt6989b
    Apr 17, 2013 at 18:44
  • @nikmasi As for the Akeyda, his rendering has two tremendous strong points: explains the unusual verse in Devarim (why 4 cities there, not 5, if all 5 were destroyed like most rishonim claim) and establishes that the bargaining of Avraham avinu was not pointless - it resulted in specific salvation of a city. That would require 7 other tzaddikim (not 8) but also leaves a question why Lot would leave to the mountains. He asks it, but I don't remember what he answers.
    – gt6989b
    Apr 17, 2013 at 18:46
  • That sounds backwards to me. Of course it is a strong answer, if it is true, but there doesn't seem to be evidence other than the fact that it removes the question! Regarding Avraham's negotiations with God, there are plenty of other explanations for that. Furthermore it would raise more questions than it answers such as: 1) If there were 7 people there already, why would the angel instruct him to go there instead of to the hills? 2) Why wouldn't Lot mention that fact instead of the fact that it was small in his argument? 3) Why would he then leave as I mention in the original questions?
    – user2110
    Apr 17, 2013 at 18:52
  • @nikmasi He addresses (2) and (3) - Lot didn't know that there were others, and they did not live in Tzoar but came there that night together with Lot. (3) I don't remember what he says, like I wrote in the comment above. In my opinion, (1) makes him daven for Tzoar, and also bears homiletic meaning as well, hinting to him that he's only saved in Avraham's merit.
    – gt6989b
    Apr 17, 2013 at 19:03

While I don't have much too add, there is a relevant source here. see Shabbos 10b, all the way on the bottom. Gemarah discusses how tzoar was one year younger than sedom, and therefore not condemned. What may remain, though, is whether it wasn't condemned then, meaning it still had some time, or that it wasn't condemned, meaning not included in this destruction?

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya and thanks for your contribution. Would you care to be more explicit about which parts of the question you are addressing and how you are addressing them? (I am pretty sure I understand, but others may not.) Nov 6, 2014 at 19:05

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